We’re in Barcelona for MWC 2016, and the first company to show its hand here was Alcatel. Formerly Alcatel OneTouch, the manufacturer has come out with a new brand name, and a new focus on today’s trendy millennials who want a great phone without the usual expense.
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Like last year’s Idol 3 series, the Idol 4 and 4S are designed to look symmetrical. The front and back surface are finished with a seamless glass, with a solid metal frame sandwiched between them. Although clearly similar to last year’s model, the upgrade in material quality is immediately noticeable to the eye and the touch. From an aesthetic standpoint, it’s a welcome evolution from the thin plastic bodies of 2015.
The internals and hardware have received a similar bump. Several components have been upgraded, although I can’t help but feel the 4S is the one worth taking note of here. To coin OnePlus’ strap-line, it’s the closest thing to a ‘flagship killer’ we’ve ever seen from Alcatel. With its Quad HD resolution 5.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 652 processor, 3GB RAM and stereo front (and back) firing speakers, there’s very little it doesn’t offer.
Battery life should be decent too. With a 3,000mAh cell and Marshmallow’s battery-saving tech, it should easily last a day on a full charge. With Quick-Charge support, it won’t matter so much if it can’t, because you can fill it back up again within a couple of hours.
The camera, housed on the back in a protruding hump, boasts 16MP sensor on the larger 4S and 13MP on the 4, but offers lightning fast auto-focus. Alcatel claims it can lock on to an object in just 0.01s.
Alcatel once again partnered with JBL to offer better audio equalization and better bass performance through the included earphones. And, to sweeten the deal further, the retail packaging will double as a Cardboard-compatible VR headset.
Another key distinguishing feature is the ‘Boom Key’ half way up the right hand side which launches specific functions depending on where you are in the interface. This can be the camera, contacts list, media player plus many more.
On the software side, we’re looking at Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a pretty minimal skin. Although Alcatel has used its own custom icons, most of the software is very vanilla. And, while first impressions aren’t always true to real-life experience, it does feel pretty responsive.
As an overall package, it’s hard to see too many flaws in Alcatel’s latest phones. I really like the way they look and feel. I’m a little concerned by the European pricing of €279 and €449 for the 4 and 4S respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how those prices translate in the US. They’ll be a price bump on last year’s model, but how much is yet to be seen.